The conventional wisdom says that homebuyers begin their search online, perusing sites like Zillow or Realtor.com and coming up with a list of favorites.
But Chris Heller, CEO of mello Home, says that is changing. Or, rather, it has already changed.
“Most buyers are seeking financing first as kind of the genesis of their home buying process,” Heller said Monday afternoon while speaking about lending trends during Inman Hacker Connect.
Heller described the shift among consumers to exploring financing first and foremost as part of a much larger digital trend, saying that “technology is really what started that process.” The trend is an outgrowth of the “amazon effect,” in which average people have been conditioned to expect easy and rapid services, Heller continued.
“We want speed, we want ease, we want transparency, we want savings,” he added.
This trend toward, and demand for, digitization can be particularly challenging for lending and financing because there are an array of regulations governing the sector, and because those regulations vary considerably from state to state. However, a number of companies, including mello Home and its parent loanDepot, are working to overcome those various obstacles.
LoanDepot founded Mello Home a year ago and is meant to connect agents to buyers who have already been approved for mortgages. Heller joined the company after a decades-long career in real estate that saw him rise to become the CEO of Keller Williams.
Heller’s comments Monday ranged from the continuing need for a human role in real estate to the ever-expanding growth of technology. And while he didn’t claim to know exactly what would happen to the financing world in the future, he is convinced that lending is going to get better and easier to use.
“We’ll see it continue to evolve and mature and there will absolutely be a much easier way for you and I to get through the process of financing a home,” Heller said.
Asked what real estate professionals can do to be a effective part of this shifting world, Heller noted that while there are numerous players involved in any transaction, only one person is really the driving force behind it: the consumer. Heller consequently advised people working in the lending and financing spaces to prioritize providing “a good experience, so the consumer stays in our ecosystem.”
“I think the most effective thing to do is to look at what the consumer wants and how we can provide that,” Heller said. Ultimately the end consumer, the buyer or seller, is the one that’s driving the whole transaction.”